Piano Recital by Krystian Zimerman

Music 1 June 2023 – 8:30pm

© Bartek Barczyk


Krystian Zimerman is a meticulous pianist who, in solitude, reflects upon and nurtures every note he plays, an artist whose public appearances are rare and sought-after events. Those who attend concerts at the Fondation Louis Vuitton Auditorium are therefore truly privileged to hear him perform twice this season. This outstanding chamber musician devoted his earlier concert in April to Brahms piano quartets. In the June recital, this pianist of matchless virtuosity and expressiveness presents a repertoire aligned with the works found on his latest CD, released by Deutsche Grammophon in October 2022, as the timelessness of Johann Sebastian Bach juxtaposes the sumptuous modernism of Zimerman’s compatriot, Karol Maciej Szymanowski.

The programme

Johann Sebastian Bach
Partita No. 1 in B flat major BWV 825
Johann Sebastian Bach
Partita No. 2 in C minor BWV 826
Karol Szymanowski
9 Preludes, op. 1 (N°1 - 2 - 7 - 8)
Karol Szymanowski
20 Mazurkas, op. 50 (N°13 – 14 – 15 – 16)
Frédéric Chopin
Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 58

The artist

Krystian Zimerman

Music for Krystian Zimerman is the art of organising emotions in time. The Polish pianist’s interpretations of everything from Beethoven and Chopin to Schubert and Szymanowski reveal infinite expressive subtleties and the underlying clarity of his story-telling through music. Zimerman’s place among today’s greatest artists rests not least on the freshness and originality of his performances, always intensely personal and prepared in meticulous detail. He may study a work for decades, exploring every facet and contemplating its meaning before introducing it to his recital repertoire or taking it into the studio. His approach belongs to a dynamic process of creative evolution, one in which self-criticism, deep reflection and intuition play significant parts. “The final thing – that which art is made of – happens in the concert hall,” he notes.

Zimerman’s first recording for Deutsche Grammophon, a Chopin recital, was released in 1977. His discography as an exclusive yellow label artist includes many landmark recordings, among them the piano concertos of Beethoven and Brahms with the Wiener Philharmoniker and Bernstein; the Grieg and Schumann concertos with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Karajan; Debussy’s Préludes; and Chopin’s two piano concertos with the Polish Festival Orchestra, a hand-picked ensemble of outstanding young Polish musicians created by Zimerman to mark the 150th anniversary of Chopin’s death in 1999.

He has made two recordings of Witold Lutosławski’s Piano Concerto, a work written for and dedicated to him. The first, issued by DG in 1992, was conducted by the composer. It was followed in 2015 by the release of a live recording made with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Rattle. Other recording highlights include an album of chamber works by Grażyna Bacewicz (2011), Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.1 with Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker (2006), and Bartók’s Piano Concerto No.1 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Boulez (2005).

Zimerman’s first solo album for over twenty-five years, a recording of Schubert’s late Piano Sonatas D959 and D960, was issued by Deutsche Grammophon in September 2017. He followed this with a centenary tribute to his friend Leonard Bernstein: a live recording of the composer’s Symphony No.2 “The Age of Anxiety”, recorded with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle and released in August 2018.

In December 2020 the pianist reunited with Rattle in challenging circumstances to record the complete Beethoven piano concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra as part of the Beethoven 250 celebrations. Their live performances from LSO St Luke’s were streamed on DG Stage and received widespread acclaim, with The Observer hailing Zimerman’s “peerless, witty playing”. Concerto No.1 was issued for download and streaming on the anniversary of Beethoven’s baptism, 17 December 2020. The full album will be released on 9 July 2021, on CD and vinyl as well as digitally. A deluxe edition (3 CDs and 1 Blu-ray), with exclusive video footage of all five concertos and a special Dolby Atmos® mix of the complete audio and video recordings, will be issued on 5 November 2021.

The Beethoven concertos remained Zimerman’s focus throughout 2020–21. He opened the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester’s 240th season in September with performances of No.3 under Andris Nelsons, going on to play full cycles with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg and Gustavo Gimeno, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo and Kazuki Yamada, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra – again with Gimeno. His performances with Rattle and the LSO in London will be shown again on DG Stage to coincide with the release of his new album (9–11 July).   

Krystian Zimerman was born into a musical family in Zabrze in southern Poland in 1956. He was introduced to chamber music-making as an infant by the many musicians who visited his home, received his first piano lessons at the age of five from his pianist father and subsequently studied privately and at the Katowice Conservatory with Andrzej Jasiński. Zimerman made his breakthrough in 1975 when he won First Prize at the International Fryderyk Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Although the 18-year-old emerged as the prestigious competition’s youngest ever winner, he recognised that he needed time to develop his artistry. In 1976 he was invited by the legendary Artur Rubinstein to work with him in Paris. Fresh artistic and psychological insights arose from his consequent period of close study with one of the 20th century’s greatest pianists, as well as from time spent with Claudio Arrau, Emil Gilels, Sviatoslav Richter and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, among others.

Since then, Zimerman has collaborated with many of the world’s leading musicians. He has performed chamber music in partnership with, among others, Gidon Kremer, Kyung-Wha Chung and Yehudi Menuhin, and worked with such conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Bernard Haitink, Herbert von Karajan, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, André Previn, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Simon Rattle and Stanisław Skrowaczewski.

Krystian Zimerman’s artistry, unlike that of most other pianists, is inextricably linked to his knowledge of the mechanics and structure of his instrument. He developed practical skills as piano builder and keyboard technician during his formative years and has refined them since in close cooperation with Steinway & Sons in Hamburg.